Why L.A.'s Secret Stair Walks Should Be Your Next Hike

Los Angeles isn't necessarily known for their hikes, but these trails will give you the nature you crave.

Los Angeles is a city that allows a nature lover unprecedented access to the outdoors, even amidst its urban playground atmosphere of world-class music, restaurants, and cocktails. But the next time you're thinking of trekking it through crowded Runyon Canyon, consider taking the stairs instead.

The hidden staircases of Los Angeles are one of the city's best-kept secrets. The steps rise from the city streets and up the bougainville-lined hillsides to seemingly, well, nowhere—a part of L.A.'s history that's now almost impossible to imagine.

The city of Los Angeles—as well-known today for its road rage-inducing as it is for its movie stars—was connected by a vast public transportation system, including trolleys, streetcars, light-rails and buses. From 1901 to 1963, the Red Cars and the Yellow Cars helped Angelenos get around town. No vehicle of your own in the City of Angels? No problem. In the 1920s, the city boasted the world's largest trolley system in the world. Just traipse down the neighborhood stairs from your hillside bungalow to the nearest streetcar stop, and you're on your way.

Today, the Los Angeles's staircases are not only a landmark of how the city once traveled, they're a popular destination for those looking to get outside, climb high into the sunshine, and see the city from another vantage point. And while we can't say for sure, but we think the endorphins from all this climbing might be why L.A. is one of America's Happiest Cities.

Music Box Loop (map)

People and dogs alike love venturing up and down these colorful steps. Instagram @treyj_jrt

705 steps

In the Academy Award-winning 1932 short, "The Music Box," Laurel and Hardy carried a piano up this towering set of stairs in Silverlake. Your task of walking up them with a water bottle is decidedly simpler. Bring a friend in tow, though, and you'll have as many laughs.

Baxter Stairs (map)

230 steps

In Echo Park next door to Elysian Park, you'll find the steepest staircase in Los Angeles. Locals say it's "hard as hell," going up, but reward for the grueling ascent is a stunning view of downtown, Griffith Park and the Hollywood sign.

Murphy Ranch Trail (map)

Murphy Ranch Trail is a workout with beautiful street art along the way. Instagram @ash.wanders

513 steps

These stairs require a short hike on a road lined with graffiti and hollyhock, but the three sets of stairs here create a loop that pass Murphy Ranch. Designed as a hideout for Nazi-sympathizers waiting for the Germans to win WWII, the ranch was instead raided by U.S. authorities and closed in 1941. In the 60s and 70s, the structures became an artists' colony only to be abandoned after a 1978 fire. If you want a hike that's a bit different with a "creepy" but "awesome atmosphere," according to locals, this graffiti-covered stairway is the spot.

Santa Monica Stairs (map)

170 steps & 189 steps

These two staircases can get crowded and a touch competitive. Think shirtless hard bodies and weekend fitness warriors jockeying for position on the ascent. On the plus side, it's also a great spot for people watching and street parking is plentiful and free after 8am.

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook (map)

282 steps

These rough-hewn steps, also known as the Culver City Stairs, cut through brush and rise from an otherwise industrial neighborhood. But brace yourself for the payoff: the hilltop terrace offers sweeping 360-degree views of LA, including downtown to the east, the glittering Pacific to the west, and the Santa Monica Mountains in the distance.

Pacific Palisades Castellammare (map)

Wanting a view? Castellammare delivers beautiful sweeping views of the Pacific.

518 steps

Charles Fleming, the man who literally wrote the book on LA's secret stairs calls this the most scenic stair walk of all: "This hillside stroll offers sweeping Pacific views, ocean breezes, and grisly Hollywood film lore." That "grisly lore" includes the body of Thelma Todd, known for her roles in Marx Brothers films such as Horse Feathers and Monkey Business, who was found dead in her car here in 1935. The staircases are next to the Getty Villa, the Self-Realization Fellowship, and Topanga Park, making it worthy of a full-day destination.

Mattachine Steps (map)

161 steps

Just south of the Silver Lake Reservoir, the Mattachine Society, one of America's first gay rights organizations, was founded by Harry Hays on this hillside on November 11, 1950. Named after a medieval French secret society that set out to right wrongs, the group accomplished just that; fifteen years later there were more than 80 bars, restaurants, and coffee shops catering to gay clientele in the area, including a dozen along Sunset in Harry Hay's neighborhood. Commemorate Hay's work with a climb on past residential homes, cacti, palms, and sagebrush, that offers, finally, a view of the reservoir.

Micheltorena Stairs (map)

177 steps

The most photogenic of all the stair walks, the painted Micheltorena Stairs are quickly becoming iconic. The rainbow piano key and heart design was is thanks to guerilla artist, Corinne Carrey, who wanted to lift the mood in the area and delight any who found them. Love the idea of painted stairs? Sign up for Painted Stairways Tours, led by Dan Gutierrez.

While dusty hiking trails in Los Angeles will always have a special place in our hearts, these climbs are a stairway to another kind of heaven in the city—one that can still feel secret. Don your biggest sunhat and SPF—your future looks bright up there.

Read More from Journiest

Subscribe now

Related Posts

Finally, we are done with 2020! Between all the highs and lows, it felt like 5 years packed into one, so I'm excited to start fresh in 2021. I'm taking my New Year's resolutions to the next level: cook more, read more, and get back to things I truly love like arts & crafts and morning runs (okay, most likely walks).

Honestly, I could go on forever about the new year, new me thing but actually getting started is my biggest hurdle. I realized that my motivation comes from my mood which directly relates to my environment … and for the past year, my house has been my habitat. So, it's not looking too great after all the wear and tear. The dirt and the mess have accumulated right under my nose.

It's not that I'm bad at it, I just feel so overwhelmed. When my house is clean, I feel much more in control and motivated, and right now it's far from it. When I was venting about my cleaning woes the other day, my friend recommended Handy.

Handy allows you to book local professional cleaners and sign up for monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly plans. Plus, you can schedule appointments at a time that works for you with availability 7 days a week from 7am-11pm. So to get me in the right headspace to tackle my goals, I'm going to be signing up for Handy. I'm looking forward to letting the experts take over.

Although having people in your home may sound a bit strange right now, Handy has rolled out the Handy Safety Standard to help promote the health and safety of the customers and professionals who use their platform. Some of these measures include requiring Pros to wear face coverings during bookings and mandatory daily in-app check-ups to verify they are in good health before claiming a booking. They even have a section on their site dedicated to keeping customers and professionals updated on the latest CDC health and safety guidance.

To top everything off, all of the Cleaning Pros booked through Handy are vetted and background checked. And you can even check out each Pro's ratings and reviews before you book.

Once my house is in order, the fresh feeling will have a domino effect on so many other areas of my life:

✔ Read More

Lying on my cozy couch without inhaling all the dust I'd chosen to ignore, despite my clear uptick in sneezing the last few months. My reading list is chock-full of thrillers and fantasy. And with my new clean slate, I've even added some books about organization.

✔ Get Cooking

Nothing makes cooking more enjoyable than a sparkling kitchen. I'm inspired by a clean space and all the new recipes I'll be whipping up in 2021 already have me drooling.

✔ More Exercise (aka walking!)

I won't feel guilty getting out for a walk on-the-daily when I know I'm not neglecting any household chores thanks to Handy. And when I come home I'm not greeted by any reminders to clean.

You can specify exactly what you want to be cleaned before your Pro arrives and if you like them, you can request to have the same Pro come every time. I can already imagine how exciting it will be to walk into my spotless space.

I cannot wait to book my cleaning through Handy so I can get my 2021 resolutions rolling. My New Year is all about my wellness and my environment plays such a big part in it. I'm signing up for bi-weekly appointments. But their plans are super flexible and if I need, I can always change to a weekly or monthly cleaning plan — sometimes they even have bookings available as soon as the next day!

With Handy, I'm leaving that rough 2020 in the dust and jumping into 2021 feeling fresh and ready-to-go.

Update: Handy is offering a limited time discount for our readers! Follow this link today to get a special offer on your first time cleaning plan.

This perfect low-key vacation is not your average camping experience.

Locations

Atlanta, Austin & San Antonio, Boston, Charlotte & Raleigh, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh & Cleveland, Portland, and Washington, DC.

Getaway's outposts are a maximum 2-hour drive from these major cities.

getaway cabin all seasons

Why Getaway?

It's an escape for the always on. Leave your work, technology and worries at home, and lean into an experience that allows you to reconnect and center yourself in nature.

Each cabin features 1 (or 2) queen-sized bed as well as a full indoor bathroom, both heat and a/c, and reliable electricity. The kitchen is stocked with food staples and cookware and there is a fire pit and outdoor seating. All cabins are family-friendly and dogs are permitted.

getaway essentials

Booking & Price

Book through the Getaway site. Cabins fit 1 - 4 guests and cost as low as $129 a night.

Safety

Cabins are already distanced (50-150' feet apart) from one another and go through a deep disinfection process between guest stays. Check-in is contactless, and each guest accesses their cabins through a personalized key code.

getaway activities

UPDATE: Plan Your Winter Escape Today With Getaway! Take $20 Off Your Stay With Code Winter20!

Given the nature of the pandemic, it can be tough to find the best ways to spend the usual festivities that New Year's Eve brings.

Luckily, if you're comfortable enough to step outside for the occasion, there are great places still open and worth visiting. Although you should always keep COVID-19 safety precautions in mind, here are three of the most stunning places to spend Near Year's Eve in the U.S.

New York City (New York)

No guide to stunning places to spend New Year's Eve in the U.S. would be complete without the presence of New York City, New York. The Times Square ball drop is a must-see annual event, though this year it will be a bit different due to the pandemic. Thankfully, the city will still be throwing an event for all to enjoy that will keep social distancing in mind and focus on bringing people together virtually.

While there might be live events for some to enjoy, none have been officially announced just yet. Even if you're enjoying the festivities virtually, there are few better places to spend this special occasion than at the tip of the NYC skyline.

New York City New Years Eve New York City New Years EveForbes

Lake Travis (Texas)

Lake Travis is a brilliant body of water in Texas that provides a versatile collection of ways to enjoy its beauty. If you'd prefer to keep your party secluded due to the pandemic, you can enjoy the evening on a boat in the waters of this lake, which is home to the famous "Devil's Cove" party destination.

If you're comfortable spending the evening in a venue that practices COVID-19 safety precautions, consider relaxing on one of the three decks on display at The Oasis. Even if you don't stick around to ring in the New Year, viewing the sunset from The Oasis is an incredible experience in itself.

Lake Travs Lake Travislaketravis.com

Cape Cod (Massachusetts)

If you're looking for a quainter way to ring in the new year, consider visiting Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Aside from the cool weather and stunning scenery, when spending New Year's Eve in Cape Cod you can visit places such as the Belfry Inn & Bistro. This lovely location has a focus on good dining, stylish and comfortable living, and COVID-19 safety, all of which they put on display via their website.

If you'd prefer not to spend too much time in a restaurant or bar, you can indulge in the incredible appearance of areas like Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket. Simply wandering around the area and taking in the scenery before enjoying an intimate evening inside makes for an unforgettable adventure.

Cape Cod New Years Eve Cape Cod New Years Evebluegreenvacations.com

Due to the ever-changing nature of certain venues during the pandemic, be sure to regularly check-up on any venues you wish to visit. That way, you can remain in the loop on their availability, activities, and safety precautions upon arrival.